Sociology | Sexual Diversity
S321 | 4114 | Armstrong


Starting with the premise that sexual meanings and practices are
socially organized, the course first challenges assumptions about
the “naturalness” of sexual organization in the contemporary United
States by exploring the quite different ways sexuality has been
structured in other times and in other places.  Then we turn to the
diversity of sexual experience in the American context.  To further
dislodge notions that sex is a simple biological function, the course
will investigate the myriad meanings of sexuality.  While some think
that sex is for pleasure, others believe it belongs only in the
context of exclusive, loving relationships, and perhaps should be
primarily for reproduction.  Some use sex as a way of achieving power
over others.  Sexuality is also a source of identity, self-esteem,
and status.  While most see sexuality as a private issue, the state
has a stake in private sexual practices, because sex is also a public
health and social welfare issue.  How people make sense of sex
influences what kinds of sexual practices and relationships they see
as acceptable.  Who are acceptable partners?  How many?  Of what age,
race, gender?  Beliefs about sexuality vary by gender, culture,
religion, urbanity, age, cohort, physical attractiveness and other
dimensions.  And, it is not just groups that vary; individuals
themselves are frequently inconsistent.  What people want may be
different than what they do.  Sexual practices may not be related to
sexual identities.  These themes are explored through a variety of
topics including: childhood sexual socialization (including teenage
sexuality and teen pregnancy); adult masculinities/femininities and
heterosexuality; date rape; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender
identities; relational sexuality (including heterosexual marital
relationships and lesbian/gay relationships); alternative sexualities
(pornography, S/M, non-monogamy, and public sex); sex work; and
sexually transmitted diseases.